I'm working on a project set in the Late Middle Ages. For the most part, I'm using modern language, but I'm staying away from present-day terminology in sciences of all types. Consider the following:

Fifteen hundred troops joined the [multinational] force.

The peoples in question are Turks, Persians, and Arabs.

I like neither multinational nor combined for this use. Thanks for your help!

Edit I don't like combined because it would beg to include the explanation "combined forces [of Turks, Persians, and Arabs]." Instead of making the sentence more concise, I made it longer.

I'm choosing Coalition because I can present the term earlier and keep the sentence in question short. Actually, this answer led me to the more nefarious Consortium, but I never would have gotten there without Coalition.

  • 1
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because OP's I like neither multinational nor combined for this use places meaningless restrictions on possible suggestions. Particularly given nearly all Anglophones would use multinational/international for this context today, even if those terms didn't exist in the Late Middle Ages. Commented May 12, 2017 at 15:22
  • I actually understand your reluctance to use multinational. But I am not sure you'll find a single word to replace it. Use as many words as it takes. Commented May 12, 2017 at 19:48
  • "Diverse" is another possibility, but it would be tempting to say "ethnically diverse," which is two words. Why do we have so many words?
    – Xanne
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 20:23
  • 1
    My feeling is "ethnic" is too modern, but I'm probably just being difficult.
    – Stu W
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 21:31
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers The OP pretty clearly suggested he wanted modern words that did not connect to modern scientific terminology - suggesting a hope to avoid connections with modern ideals we associate with those words. By noting the specific nationalities involved, he suggested that those cultures were pertinent to choosing a descriptive word. I do think he could have done better explaining why "combined" was not something he wanted to convey. (This kind of question is interesting to me, as it is very difficult to use modern language to paint the past without imposing a modern world-view.)
    – Tom22
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 2:34

5 Answers 5


Coalition, would have the connotation of diverse forces working together without the modern notion of nationhood.


How about polyethnic?

Words of Greek origin are guaranteed to never sound modern. (Read that with a pinch of salt.)


Given they form the largest demographic of the term, I would say

Middle Eastern would fit nicely:

Arabs, Turks, Persians, Kurds, and Azeris (excluding Republic of Azerbaijan) constitute the largest ethnic groups in the region by population.


  • The Crusaders were a Middle-Eastern force too. Commented May 13, 2017 at 10:02

the three bloodlines or in your sentence:

fifteen hundred troops joined the ~joint armies of the three bloodlines~

If I read the OP correctly, he is trying to convey some of the "sense of self" the "peoples" have while referring to them.(I infer that from his refering to nationalities as peoples as well as his desire to stay clear of the word 'combined')

If I read right, he wants to use mostly modern language, but convey sensibilities of self-perception of the people involved. Quoting OP: but I'm staying away from present-day terminology in sciences of all types.

The terms nation and especially "multinational" carry with them so much of a anthropological self-awareness and political science uses that even if a dictionary definition works, the taste of the words misses a chance to contrast these groups with our notion of groups in the west and in modern times.

The word Bloodlines, I think, captures what a people was to themselves at that time. Even more than the already strong "shared history" their ancestry was eternally alive: Father to son to grandson, brother to cousin to cousin in a spiritual sense. They had more yeasty sense of "our people" than our sense of individuals or distinct generations.

I think this kinship-centric sense of people is particularly strong in the middle-east. (I read the OPs desire for words particularly apt to the middle east by naming of the groups he did)


I also see why the OP might avoid "combined" as that does imply mixing and de-emphasizes separate entities fighting side by side. "United" might be better but that carries some sense of meeting of the minds.

To me, "Joint" would emphasize separate autonomous entities with links created for a particular situation.

"Force" also seems a bit modern to me.. I'd choose "armies", also plural emphasizing their separateness.

"Joint armies of the three bloodlines" seems set apart from modern references yet uses modern words joined together.


Fifteen hundred troops joined the motley force.

2 : made up of many different people or things - a motley crowd - a motley collection of junk

"Motley." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 13 May 2017.

During the interval between May i860 when Ward took Sungkiang and April 6 1863 when Gordon took Fu shan the best manner of combining native and foreign troops was gradually developed as they became more and more acquainted with each other and learned to respect discipline as an earnest of success Such a motley force has seldom if ever been seen and the enormous preponderance of Chinese troops would have perhaps been an element of danger had they been left idle for a long time.

There were five or six infantry regiments of about five hundred men each and a battery of artillery at times it numbered five thousand men The commissioned officers were all foreigners and their national rivalries were sometimes a source of trouble the non commissioned officers were Chinese many of them repentant rebels or seafaring men from Canton and Fuhkien promoted for good conduct. [...]

from The Open Court, Volume 15, p747 By Paul Carus , 1901

The vanguard of the British army under Gen Keano was landed on Dec 16 and marched to a spot within 9 miles of New Orleans on the morning of the 23d Jackson learned their arrival before 2 PM and prepared to attack them in their camp He assembled a motley force 2,131 strong of whom only about 1,800 were engaged and aided by Lieut Henley in the US schooner Carolina assailed the British A very hot action was fought with decided advantage to the Americans as the effect of it was to prevent the enemy's advance upon the city and the victory might have been made complete had not largo British reinforcements arrived during the night.

from The New American Encyclopaedia: A Popular Dictionary of General knowledge, Volume 9, p682. 1872.

Motley force and motley army have many hundreds of hits in google ngrams.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.